Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

The Grumman Hellcat was the most successful Naval fighter of World War II.  This really isn’t even close.

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Yet ironically it seems to be less well known than other late war US types.  So let’s take a look at an outstanding aircraft.

The Hellcat was an original design that bore a superficial resemblance to other Grumman Company products.  It was built for the same order that generated the F4U Corsair; and the Hellcat actually outperformed the Corsair in every critical aspect except top speed and rate of climb.  Most significantly, it handled far better, especially at low speed.  But it was also engineered to be far more rugged and easier to maintain.

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This kit is one of the oldest builds I've held on to.  It may be 17 years old?   It was one of the first kits I was completely pleased with.  Of course now I look at it and see how much better I could do...

This kit is one of the oldest builds I’ve held on to. It may be 17 years old?
It was one of the first builds I was completely pleased with. Of course I look at it now and see how much better I could do…

Make no mistake, the Corsair performed very well for the Marine Corps, and the Navy would later come to want Corsair squadrons as their speed and rate of climb made them better as pure interceptors for dealing with the Kamikaze threat.  But the Hellcat would be responsible for 75% of all US Navy kills in World War Two and it had a 19:1 kill ratio over the Zero.

Look at that big cat grin.  Capturing that grin in plastic is a hot topic in the world of scale modeling.  Many feel the more recent Eduard Hellcat does it better.

Look at that big cat grin. Capturing that grin in plastic is a hot topic in the world of scale modeling. Many feel the more recent Eduard Hellcat does it better.

This particular Hellcat is from the Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.  It was based on the USS Princeton in 1944.  I chose this particular subject because interesting markings on Hellcats can be hard to find.  The Navy tended to discourage unofficial markings, and paint and markings were usually maintained to a high standard.  Yet the Captain (or Air Group Commander?) of the Princeton chose to allow his fighter squadron to adopt this unofficial marking as the “Cat Mouths”.  The squadron flew a mix of F6F-3s and F6F-5s in  late 1944 with this marking.  Sadly the Princeton would become the last American Fleet Carrier lost in action on October 24, 1944 when she was hit by a lone Japanese bomber.  Those aircraft airborne at the time were recovered on other flat tops.  And they all had their cat mouths removed in short order.

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The whole family of World War II Grumman carrier aircraft.  From left to right; Hellcat, Wildcat and Avenger.

The whole family of World War II Grumman carrier aircraft. From left to right; Hellcat, Wildcat and Avenger.

Three major American fighters were powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine.  From left to right; Corsair, Hellcat, Thunderbolt.

Three major American fighters were powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. From left to right; Corsair, Hellcat, Thunderbolt.

Fighting 27 (VF-27) on board the USS Princeton

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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7 Responses to Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    As you say, an impressive aircraft, but as your lineup of the Grumman Navy lineup shows, not a lot for a modeler or artist to work with compared to the Mustangs, Spitfires, Thunderbolts and Lightenings.

    • atcDave says:

      It’s funny, I really think they’re all beautiful. I particularly love the Wildcat. But it is difficult to find a lot of variety, at least compared to Mustangs or Thunderbolts where it’s actually tough to narrow things down to ten (or uh, 50…) or so unique looking schemes. With the Grumman types, well, it’s a good thing I like Blue.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree there is a certain esthetic quality to their simple functional lines, but there is also a seen one, seen ’em all aspect that isn’t there with a lot of other high-performance fighters.

  2. Theresa says:

    There is the plane that won the Pacific!

  3. Terry Brodin says:

    Referring back to my comments about “sharks teeth” on different aircraft; now this is a case where “teeth” fit the aircraft! I always thought that the “Cat’s Mouth” style of teeth, combined with cowl shape gave the Hellcat a very “Angry Piranha” look to it.
    Dave —- do you every build a dog?

    • atcDave says:

      I can think of a few dog and wolf head markings coming up! But no, I’ve never built a dog.
      Unless you mean to just to slam a kit?! I’ve tried a few I chose not to finish. The Accurate Miniatures Gulfhawk stands out. The resin was so bad and pitted. I tried to fix it, but then when I couldn’t get things to align right it wound up in the trash.
      And some of those old Airfix and Italeri kits need a lot of filler! More recently, I’d say the Hobby Boss Wildcat, ESPECIALLY the FM-2 is a disappointment. It’s a fiddly kit to begin with, and then the cowl looks more like the FM-1 than the FM-2. Not a well engineered kit!

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